(This event is organised by MEI’s Transsystemic Research Cluster, as part of its monthly internal seminar series.)
In recent years, presumably owing to increasingly restrictive asylum policies in Europe and the United States, Palestinians (often already refugees) have resolved to seek protection in Asia. Available data shows that between 2011-2013 unprecedented numbers of Palestinians were found in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, with smaller numbers in Korea, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Despite the general lack of asylum frameworks in the region, some South East Asian countries have relatively favourable visa policies and/or de facto allow to remain in the country temporarily pending durable solutions, which may attract asylum-seekers and refugees to travel there either as temporary or permanent destinations. Geographical proximity to Australia may also be a factor that affects individuals’ decisions to travel to South East Asia. The region presents both protection opportunities and challenges for Palestinian refugees. This paper explores legal status and general treatment (e.g. enjoyment of basic rights) afforded to Palestinian refugees in South East Asia. It also offers some critical reflections in a field of research which is as new as the routes that Palestinian refugees are currently exploring in search of safe haven after 70 years in exile. The paper is divided into four sections. The first offers some background on Palestinian refugees and the extent to which they can be ‘differentiated’ from other refugee groups. The second discusses the available data on Palestinian refugees in South East Asia, particularly Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, where sizable numbers are reported and relatively reliable information exists.The third section discusses some preliminary observations on current protection and legal status needs and priorities for these refugees. Finally, the fourth section offers some conclusions on the situation described in the paper.
About the Speaker
Francesca Albanese is a human rights lawyer (LL.M, SOAS) who spent 12 years working in the field of human rights, including with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and more recently with the UN Agency for Relief and Work of Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Her legal expertise includes research, policy advice and capacity building on various human rights issues -mainly in Asia and the MENA region. This includes the protection of refugees and migrants, interaction with the international human rights system, the establishment of national human rights institutions and mechanisms for the prevention of torture.
Francesca is currently co-authoring, with Lex Takkenberg, a new edition of Takkenberg’s seminal work on “The Status of Palestinian Refugees in International Law“, first published by Oxford University Press in 1998 (new edition expected by 2018). Her research covers the genesis and evolution of the Palestinian refugee Question, including the legal status and treatment that Palestinian refugees enjoy in host countries (in the Middle East and North Africa, Europe, America, Asia and Africa), the normative, institutional and protection frameworks applicable/applied to them and possible just and durable solutions to their claims.
Francesca is an Associate Researcher at the Institute for the Study of International Migration (ISIM) Georgetown University and Affiliated Scholar to the Refugee Program of the Issam Fares Institute, American University of Beirut. Since early 2017, she became a Research Affiliate with the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore.